Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Current Affairs of 29th September-2020

 

1) United Nations General Assembly speech:

The speeches at the UN general assembly by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and day a later by Prime Minister Narendra Modi were a study in contrast

  • Modi focused on India’s own role and the need to Reform the UN and expand the Security Council to give India more representation
  • Khan focused less time on Pakistan launching a broadside against India
  • Modi made no reference to Pakistan and spoke about terrorism only in broader terms

Imran Khan’s Speech:

  • Mr. Khan accused Modi government of state sponsorship of Islamophobia following an extremist ideology of the RSS in which he claims is inspired by Nazi concepts of racial purity and Supremacy, and of planning to cleanse the country of minorities
  • Extreme comparisons were made between the citizenship Amendment Act and the Nuremberg laws as well as between detention camps in Assam and the concentration camps of Nazi Army
  • He also accused the government’s move to dilute article 370 and reorganize Jammu and Kashmir state into union territories and this was similar to final solution of genocide for the state
  • He concluded with reference to LOC tensions, where ceasefire violations have rising and referred Kashmir as a nuclear flash point
    Mr. Khan’s speech can be easily countered and dismissed
  • Pakistan’s own record on minorities, including its own laws that even prevent minorities from holding high office completely demolished Pakistan’s credentials to attack India which is constitutionally declared secular democracy
  • Accusations of Indian state terrorism come even as his country faces a decisive moment at the financial action task force in October, where Pakistan has been kept on grey list since 2018
  • His accusations on the reorganization of Jammu and of Kashmir and of attempting demographic changes are equally Strange, given Pakistan has itself just declared Gilgit Baltistan a province and has carried out the resettlement of non-Kashmiris in Pakistan occupied Kashmiri for decades

Even if some of the concerns that were raised by Mr. Khan are also being debated inside India the over dramatic characterizations they are certainly not within the purview of another country and not a legitimate subject for his address at the UN

 

2) Multilateralism:

Context: Discussion at the United Nation 75th anniversary 2020

  • The anniversary comes at a time when the world is witnessing a Retreat from multilateralism, facing unprecedented pandemic
  • The UN called the pandemic the fifth horseman, no one could have predicted it
  • It has also bought in its wake the deepest recession the world has since the 1930s
  • This has made it more difficult to achieve the sustainable development goals the UN had adopted
  • The challenge to multilateralism is coming not from the have-nots but the main stakeholders of the system
  • The U.S is not alone in withdrawing from multilateralism
  • Brexit has shown that nationalism remain strong in Europe
  • It has delivered a blow to the idea of Europe, united and whole
  • French president Emmanuel macron remarked in his speech at the UN General Assembly, the U.S which created the international system as we know today is no longer willing to be its guarantor of last resort
  • US President Donald Trump stressed America first in his speech and suggested that others too should put their country’s first

Challenges to multilateralism

  • China has stepped in to take advantage of retreat from multilateralism
  • But China assertion is not an embrace of the idea of multilateralism
  • Belt and Road initiative consists of a series of bilateral credit agreements with recipient countries with no mechanism for multilateral consultation or oversight
  •  The European Union and the US’s sanctions against Russia have driven it closer to China
  • The rift between the permanent members of the Security Council has already started affecting The United Nation Security general’s report on the work of the organization highlights some of the achievements and challenges the world body faces
  • Over 40 United Nation political missions and peacekeeping operations engage 95000 Troops, police and civil personal
  • Most of the humanitarian assistance, developmental work and budgets of the specialized Agencies are based on voluntary contributions
  • The speeches at the regular session brought out the clashing perspectives of US and China
  • Climate change and global emissions were also discus
  • China to become carbon neutral by 2060
  • Pakistan ranked 134 in UN SDG index, the lowest for any country in South Asia
  • There are calls for increasing public private partnerships, this is not a satisfactory arrangement
  • The UN provides public goods in terms of peace and development often in remote parts of the world
  • There may not be enough appetite on the part of the corporation’s the EU and remains an intergovernmental body

 

3) New science policy:

The policy would rank institutes based on support for women staff, the representation of women in engineering courses at IIT is around 10 to 12% only

  • The new policy is pushed towards inclusivity, equity and diversity
  • Policy was drawn in 2013 and the new version is expected to be unveiled by December
  • Even when they join the Sciences they have to dropout due to social, cultural, family pressure children etc.,.
  • a task force on women in Science set up by the government in 2005 had found that there has been a growth in enrollment of women at the university level from 10.9% in 1950-51 to 39.4% in 2000 to 2001
  • However it also marked regional differences.

Vigyan Jyoti which was launched very recently to increase girls to choose STEM careers, careers and bring more of them into IITs, NITs and IISERs

  • The Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti is running this program in which 2500 on of the top performing class 11 students have been choosing from 50 districts
  • Students will get to meet top women scientists, entrepreneurs captains of industry

 

4) EPS on UMANG app:

Adding to the 16 services already on the UMANG app, EPFO has now started another facility, enabling EPS (employees’ pension scheme) members to apply for Scheme Certificate under Employees’ Pension Scheme, 1995, according to the statement.

  • Scheme certificate is issued to members who withdraw their Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contribution but wish to retain their membership with the EPFO to avail pension benefits on the attainment of retirement age.
  • A member becomes eligible for pension only if he has been, cumulately, a member of the Employees’ Pension Scheme, 1995 for at least 10 years.
  • Upon joining a new job, Scheme Certificate ensures that previous pensionable service is added to pensionable service rendered with the new employer, thereby increasing the amount of pension
  • Further, Scheme Certificate is also useful for family members to avail family pension, in case of the untimely death of the eligible member.
  • The ease of applying for Scheme Certificate through UMANG app will now help members avoid unnecessary hardship of physically applying for it, especially during the pandemic and will also eliminate unnecessary paperwork.
  • The facility will benefit over 5.89 crore subscribers. For availing the service on UMANG app, an active Universal Accounts.

For availing the service on Umang App, an active Universal Account Number (UAN) and a mobile number registered with the EPFO is required.

About UMANG

  • UMANG (Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance) is developed by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and National e-Governance Division (NeGD) to drive Mobile Governance in India.
  • UMANG provides a single platform for all Indian Citizens to access pan India e-Gov services ranging from Central to Local Government bodies and other citizen centric services.

What is EPFO?

  • EPFO is one of the World’s largest Social Security Organizations in terms of clientele and the volume of financial transactions undertaken.
  • The Employees’ Provident Fund came into existence with the promulgation of the Employees’ Provident Funds Ordinance on the 15th November, 1951.
  • It was replaced by the Employees’ Provident Funds Act, 1952.
  • The Employees’ Provident Funds Bill was introduced in the Parliament as Bill Number 15 of the year 1952 as a Bill to provide for the institution of provident funds for employees in factories and other establishments.
  • The Act is now referred as the Employees’ Provident Funds & Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 which extends to the whole of India.
  • The Act and Schemes framed there under are administered by a tri-partite Board known as the Central Board of Trustees, Employees’ Provident Fund, consisting of representatives of Government (Both Central and State), Employers, and Employees.

 

5) Ganga Avalokan:

  • The first museum on Ganga dedicated to showcase the culture, biodiversity and rejuvenation activities done in Ganga River.
  • The museum is located at Chandi Ghat, Haridwar.
  • A book rowing down the Ganges co-published by National Mission for Clean Ganga & Wildlife Institute of India will be launched at the event.
  • This colorful book is an attempt to merge the biodiversity and culture of the Ganga River.
  • It conceptualizes the story of the Ganga as what one would see when one rows down from Gurumukhi, its origin, to Ganga Sagar, the last point before entering the sea

 

6) RBI postpones policy meeting:

  • RBI postpones the monetary policy meeting without specifying a reason
  • MPC is scheduled for a review in 2021 when it completes 5 years
  • the panel to select external members was set up early this year it is headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba and includes RBI Governor shaktikanta Das for a deputy governor representing him, Niti Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar and economics affairs secretary Tarun Bajaj

Monetary policy committee

  • Monetary policy committee is constituted by the central government under the RBI act, 1934 to determine the policy interest rate required to achieve the inflation target
  • The committee comprises six members’ three officials of the RBI (including Governor who also chairs the MPC) and 3 external members nominated by the government of India
  • Nominated members by the government of India are not eligible for reappointment
  • The monetary policy committee must have a quorum of 4, it cannot meet unless the center appoints new independent members
  • This is the first time that the bi-monthly policy announcement has been deferred since the establishment of MPC in 2016 through the RBI act

 

7) New Defence acquisition policy:

Context: the defence ministry has removed the offset clause requirement in Intergovernmental Agreement in New Defence acquisition procedure DAP 2020, which was released on Monday

  • It also introduces a new category for leasing of military equipment
  • last week the CAG observed that French defence major , Dassault Aviation and MBDA have till date not confirmed the transfer of technology to the defence research and development organization under the rupees 60,000 crore deal for 36 rafale fighter jets
  • The deal has 50% offset clause to be executed by the French companies
  • Director General acquisition said we have removed some of the offset requirements as they are not working from now on there will be no clause in the Government to Government, single vendor and IGAs
  • Under offset clause, foreign companies are required to invest part of their deal value in the country and mean to improve the domestic defence manufacturing
  • The offset guidelines have also been revised, wherein in preference will be given to manufacture of complete defence products over components and various multipliers have been added to give incentivisation in discharge of offsets
  • Other proposed measures include making after sales support part of capital acquisition contract, higher indigenous content in acquisition and incentives for local material and software and emphasis on product export under offsets

Lease option

  • Leasing has been introduced as a new category for acquisition in addition to the existing buy and make categories to substitute huge initial capital outlays with periodical rental payments
  • This will be useful for military equipment not used in actual war field like transport fleets, trainers simulators among others

 

8) Making MSP a legal right:

Context: The ongoing farmers’ protests against the agriculture reform bills passed by Parliament have seemingly crystallized into a single demand: Make the minimum support price (MSP) a legal right.

But this is not practical why?

  • There are established institutional mechanisms — the public distribution system (PDS), gram panchayats and government schools — to ensure right to food, minimum workdays and education.
  • Government has no institutional mechanism unlike RTE where private schools give 25% reservation to backward children, similarly NFSA has fair price shops
  • But what can the government do if safflower, Niger seed or ragi prices fall below the MSP in hinterland markets?
  • How much can it buy and how would it dispose of these crops — unlike rice and wheat that are at least sold through the PDS?
  • Once the MSP becomes a “right”, the government is duty-bound to enforce it.
  • if we make MSP a legal right agricultural experts say that, a maximum of 10% farmers will be benefited from making MSP a legal right In this case, successful enforcement would mean not just distorting, but supplanting the market.

Way forward:

  • Farmers would be better off with income support that is crop-agnostic.
  • The idea of a universal basic income (UBI), mooted in the 2016-17 Economic Survey, is worth considering.
  • Let all 12 crore-odd farm households receive a UBI of, say, Rs 24,000 annually, which is four times the amount already extended under PM-Kisan
  • The extra money required can be found by phasing out the MSP and all market-distorting input subsidies.
  • A UBI to complement the three reform laws will unleash the transformative potential of Indian agriculture.

 

9) ESG funds:

ESG funds — which imbibe environment, social responsibility and corporate governance in their investing process— are witnessing growing interest in the Indian mutual fund industry too.

  • There are currently three ESG schemes managing close to Rs 4,500 crore (two of these launched in the last 15 months), while at least five more fund houses have lined up new schemes.

What is ESG?

  • ESG investing is used synonymously with sustainable investing or socially responsible investing. While selecting a stock for investment, the ESG fund shortlists companies that score high on environment, social responsibility and corporate governance, and then looks into financial factors.
  • So, the schemes focuses on companies with environment-friendly practices, ethical business practices and an employee-friendly record.

Why so much focus on ESG now?

  • Fund houses modern investors are re-evaluating traditional approaches, and look at the impact their investment has on the planet. As a result of this paradigm change, asset managers have started incorporating ESG factors into investment practices.

What change can it bring?

  • As ESG funds gain momentum in India, fund managers say companies will be forced to follow better governance, ethical practices, environment-friendly measures and social responsibility.

Coming years, companies that do not follow sustainable business models will find it tough to raise both equity and debt.

 

10) User Depot Module:

User Depot Module (UDM) developed by CRIS (Centre for Railway Information Systems) was rolled out digitally across all User Depots of Western Railway

  • This system will be implemented shortly across all Zones of Indian Railways.
  • Railway’s supply chain up to Stores Depots has already been digitized, however activities at user end are being done manually.
  • Implementation of this system will bring in transformational changes from manual working to digital working with real time transactions and online information exchange among all stakeholders.
  • This will ensure digitization of complete supply chain, including user depots.
  • The system will facilitate economy, efficiency and transparency besides improved asset management.
  • It will ensure improved service level and satisfaction to customers.

 

11) H-CNG:

  • Alternative clean fuel for transportation
  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has allowed use of H-CNG (18% mix of hydrogen) in CNG engines
  • The Ministry has been notifying various alternate fuels under Clean Fuels for transportation.
  • The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has also developed specifications (IS 17314:2019) of Hydrogen enriched Compressed Natural Gas (H-CNG) for automotive purposes, as a fuel.
  • Certain CNG-engine were tested to understand the emission reduction using H-CNG as compared to ‘neat’ CNG.
  • A notification for amendments to the Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989, for inclusion of H-CNG as an automotive fuel has been published
  • The draft rules in this respect were made available to the public on the 22nd July last. No objections and suggestions were received from the public in this respect

 

12) Himalayan Chandra Telescope:

  • Located in the cold, dry desert of Ladakh, 4500 meters above the mean sea level, for two decades,
  • The 2-m diameter optical-infrared Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT) at the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) has been scanning the night sky in search of stellar explosions, comets, asteroids, and exo-planets.
  • The Himalayan Chandra Telescope is a 2.01 meters (6.5 feet) diameter optical-infrared telescope.
  • It is named after India-born Nobel laureate Subramanian Chandrasekhar.
  • It contains a modified Ritchey-Chretien system with a primary mirror made of ULE ceramic which is designed to withstand low temperatures it experience
  • The telescope is remotely operated via an INSAT-3B satellite link.
  • This allows Himalayan Chandra Telescope operation even in sub-zero temperatures in winter.

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